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There was so much to say for my story on why UCSD enrolls so few black students — and I had to leave some of it on the cutting room floor. Here are some interesting bits that didn’t fit in:
• Did ending affirmative action make it impossible to bring more black students to UCSD? Here’s how one professor answered that question. “They used to say, ‘The law has tied our hands behind our backs.’ I think that’s a copout,” said Sara Kaplan, an assistant professor of ethnic studies and critical gender studies. “But I would say that it definitely ties one hand behind our back.”
• Admissions director Mae Brown said black student applications are already up nearly 21 percent this year compared to last. She credited aggressive outreach to disadvantaged schools and programs that help underserved high schoolers with academic counseling for some of the increase.
• Racial tensions aren’t unique to UCSD, of course. College parties that revel in racial stereotypes have cropped up from Chicago to South Carolina. Growing racial segregation in elementary, middle and high schools has created more college students who are ignorant of other racial groups, studies have shown.
• Another factor hangs over the debates about how UCSD can attract more black students: Money. Some students are leery of seeing more funding for recruiting while budgets are dropping. Alec Weisman, a junior studying ecology, raised that complaint.
“The Black Student Union is asking for more funds when the whole student body is struggling,” he said. “They’re trying to take UCSD — a top-of-the-line school in science and politics — and say we should spend more on ethnic studies, a department that most students don’t want to take classes in.”
• Darnell Hunt, who runs an African American studies center at UCLA and has studied the issue of admissions, said he was offered a job at UCSD and turned it down for the same reason that many black students turn the school down: He wasn’t convinced the campus was friendly to blacks.
“It’s just not an inviting place for black students,” Hunt said. “There was no established black studies program. No real center on campus. You don’t feel included.”
• We talked to a long list of black leaders, from African American Educators leader Wendell Bass to San Diego Unified school board member Shelia Jackson, along with many black students, about how its reputation is viewed in the black community.
Freshman Zim Ezumah said her mother’s coworkers talked about it not being “ethnic friendly” before she enrolled. And Kaplan, the ethnic studies professor who is African American, talked about struggling to convince other black professors to come to the university.
“When you tell people there are 17 black faculty on campus, it does not always convince them that the depth of community that they need is present,” she said.
• I didn’t get into the back-and-forth over California’s affirmative action ban. (That’s another article. OK, maybe a book.) But Ward Connerly, one of the key people behind the move to end it, argued that one advantage was that it’s focusing more attention on the earlier disparities in K-12 education for students of different races.
“There is a profound academic gap between black kids as a whole and white kids, as well as Chinese kids, Vietnamese kids,” he said. “But if we think that Chinese kids or Vietnamese kids are generally outperforming black kids, we shouldn’t change the standards. What we should do is make the black kids more competitive.”
— EMILY ALPERT